Python Editors — Getting Started

Website Developer
8 min readDec 7, 2022

Python is a translated, object-oriented, high-level programming language designed for readability with similarities to the English language, making it beginner-friendly. Like most programming languages, Python works with an interpreter that executes lines of code. A text editor application is used to write and edit code with unique formatting capabilities. A text editor is part of the Python development environment that allows users to enter, edit and delete characters to create a Python application. Picking the right Python editor depends on many factors and is the first step in learning the basics of Python and coding.

Text Editors and Code Editors

Text editors are programs that type simple text without the formatting a word processor such as MS-word would do. MS-word uses formatting features that modify the look and feel of the text. For example, MS Word allows different margin options, fonts, paragraphs, Auto capitalization, bold, and italics, to name a few formatting options. A python text editor is written in plain simple text without extra formatting for the interpreter to understand the code. There are many different text editors used to write code, but also specialized editors called code editors.

Specialized Python code editors is a developer tool used to write and edit code. Technical code editors are designed for developers, including features that help write and debug Python code. Code editors can include similar functionalities such as syntax highlighting, auto-indent and completion, and class browser and can run scripts from inside the editor. Syntax highlighting is used to identify different aspects of Python code by displaying text in different colors according to the categories and terms. It highlights keywords, string literals, and other syntactic elements, which can help draw attention to syntax errors. For example, most editors highlight string literals in a different color. With many other code editors available, the one used is based on personal preference.

Choosing the Right Text Editor for Coding

With so many different code editor options available on many other operating systems, the choice comes down to personal preference. For a beginner, a simple code editor is needed, such as PyCharm or Notepad++. Notepad++ is a fast, lightweight code and text editor. It provides basic functionality for a code editor and supports Python but with limited functionality. PyCharm integrates a general-purpose editor that includes syntax highlighting and auto-indentation to assist in learning the basics of Python coding. As you become more familiar and comfortable with Python, you adopt more significant needs that require more advanced options with additional features for extensibility and flexibility, such as an IDE. CLICK for further information on Python Code Editors

Code editors allow the user to create, save and edit plain text files without any word processor formats. Code editors offer additional features such as:

  • Syntax checking highlights errors as you type to fix as you go.
  • Code completion or suggestion to auto-complete code or incorrect change code.
  • Project files and directories that allow easy access to previous code and management.
  • Input the definition to see the description of a function and how it is used.
  • Extension options such as plugins for more intermediate level.
  • Debugging
  • A quick documentation option is used to understand the code and the purpose or design.

IDE Compared to Code Editor

A code editor is a specialized text editor to write and edits source code. These code editors have built-in features and technical functions to simplify and accelerate the code editing process. An IDE(Integrated Development Environment) integrates several tools specifically designed for software development. These tools include:

  • A Python text editor that includes syntax highlighting and auto-completion.
  • Build, execute, and debug tools.
  • A form of source control.
  • Plugins for advanced features

Most IDEs support different programming languages and contain many features. Because of this, they take up more space than a code editor and take more time to download and install. Also, IDEs said by realpython.com require more advanced knowledge to use them properly. Because of this, it is recommended that beginners start with a simple code editor with syntax highlighting and code formatting capabilities. A good code editor can execute code and control a debugger. Compared to an IDE, an excellent dedicated code editor is usually smaller and quicker but lacks additional features. An IDE such as PyCharm integrates a simple Python code editor with more advanced features that beginners can use as they advance into intermediate programmers.

PyCharm as a Python Code Editor

While an IDE is said to be for more advanced Python knowledge when compared to a simple, dedicated code editor like Notepad++, they need to enhance the code editing process past basic Python knowledge. PyCharm is recommended by many as a reliable IDE for Python coding that installs quickly and easily on Windows, Mac OS x, and Linux platforms. PyCharm includes a complete set of tools to create, debug and develop projects in different Python frameworks. Because PyCharm is user-friendly, it is the number one option for beginners, according to geeksforgeeks.org. PyCharm integrates a code editor with the simplicity of Notepad++ for beginners but combines the functionality options for intermediate knowledge. The PyCharm IDE supports Python coding for beginners and supports various levels of learning throughout the coding process, which is why it is an excellent choice for a beginner.

As PyCharm is an IDE for Python, it is a prerequisite to have installed the recent release of Python, followed by the download and installation of the PyCharm from the Official Jet Brains site. The download site provides an overview of system requirements and installation instructions. Follow all steps suggested by the wizard while paying close attention to the corresponding installation options. Once the installation of Python and PyCharm is complete and the system is rebooted, open the PyCharm Application. PyCharm is a hybrid platform developed by JetBrains as an IDE for Python. It is commonly used to learn the basics of Python and supports intermediate development by providing added options and functionalities through the learning process.

Creating and Running a Python Script with PyCharm

With PyCharm open, follow the directions provided by this link to create the first project. The first project created produces a main.py file opened by default with a simple Python script to print “Hi PyCharm” when run. The course content of realpython.com says, “A script is a Python file that’s intended to be run directly. When you run it, it should do something. This means that scripts will often contain code outside the scope of any classes or functions. To run main.py or any .py extension, click the Run tab. The run tab allows the main.py script to be run within the IDE environment, which produces the Python script output in the run section, as shown below.

The file extension .py is a program file or script written in Python to create and edit with the integrated text editor of PyCharm. To better understand how the IDE and text editor work, it is essential to learn the basics of PyCharm.

Basics of PyCharm

Everything done in PyCharm is a project. A project is a basis for coding assistance, refactoring, coding style consistency, and more. There are three options to start a project inside the IDE:

  • Open existing project
  • Check out a project from the version control
  • Create a new project

The main window is divided into several logical areas when a project is opened, such as main.py. These logical areas are designed to assist in coding by putting everything needed in one environment with easy access. PyCharm has the following capabilities to create error-free applications and assist in learning Python basics: https://www.jetbrains.com/help/pycharm/quick-start-guide.html#code-assistance.

  • Code Completion works as you type and completes any name instantly. Smart type-matching completion analyzes the context being worked on and makes a suggestion based on that analysis. More on Code Completion
  • Intention Action is suggestions to what is being written and suggests a correction. A suggested correction is indicated with a lightbulb that can automatically change to the correct code when clicked. An example using the main.py project is when calling the print function() to print the specified message of “Hi PyCharm” to the screen, but two different quotes are used. The Intention action suggests the correct quotes and changes two sets of double quotes around a string by clicking the lightbulb and selecting the suggestion. More on Intention Action

PyCharm uses monitoring techniques to suggest correct code with the intent to keep it accurate and clean. Whenever the IDE finds unused code, an endless loop, and other common errors that require attention, a lightbulb suggests applying a fix. This detects potential errors and problems with a suggested quick fix for them. These few explained capabilities allow the basics of Python to be learned and applied while writing code which assists in the learning process.

Editor Basics Continued

The PyCharm code completion and intention action are examples of how PyCharm is helpful for Python Beginners. The editor is the central part of the IDE that is used to create, read and modify code. The editor is made up of the following areas:

1. The Scrollbar on the right shows errors and warnings in the file that is currently being worked on

2. Breadcrumbs are highlighted to help navigate the code in the current file

3. The gutter shows the line numbers and annotations.

4. Tabs show the names of the currently opened files

IDE / Editor Selection

Picking a suitable IDE or Python text editor is essential to begin learning the object-oriented programming language called Python. Python is similar to English, and many find it easier to understand than other programming languages. With the help of an IDE with an integrated code editor, learning python basics to intermediate coding is made simpler with the help of PyCharm or any other preferred IDE or a simple text editor like WordPad++. Text editors are part of a developer’s toolbox, and an IDE enables programmers to consolidate the different aspects of writing code into a single graphical user interface that is beginner and user-friendly. Although industry professionals recommend a simple text editor as a great way to learn Python, it is often outgrown fast, and an IDE with greater functionality is needed. Because of this, an IDE such as PyCharm with an integrated code editor is a better option for learning Python basics with extra functionality to advance into more intermediate options.

Written By Morgan Hinsee

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